Chronological transportation doesn’t allow us the ability to look at thoughts of an individual or group conciousness. We project ourselves into the Hall of Mirrors, catch a glimpse into the static eyes of the delegates there. In areas of Germany historical evidence shows that democracy was embraced: J W Hiden relays the parliament was full of ‘responsible and meticulous discussion’. It is fair to believe these new Western notions had reached German eyes and ears long before Woodrow Wilson arrived on the scene.
Ruth Henig backs up the viewpoint and provides a more optimistic element of closure to the relationship between Germany and co-advocates of self-determination through the character of Lloyd George and what is known of his beliefs. (That Germany would help rebuild, contain itself and act constructively in the post-war years). However, Hiden does go on to mention the suspect manoeuvring of Weimar President Friedrich Ebert when the enlisting of the Friekorps through his Ministry of Defence quelled a Spartacist mutiny.
The final morturary numbers, were in four figures from that incident, including Luxemburg and Liebknecht who at the time maintained strong moral and political connections. (At the time of their deaths they had ties with the Social Democrats. The Spartacists and Communist Party had formed pre-war on an anti-war basis, and post-war, both had openly stated a disinterest in violent revolution. 1) Ebert’s error was a terrible stain on the child Republic that no doubt would have biased the attitudes of the visiting ambassadors.
The organisation of the treaty and following settlement appears to have been written on a foundation of vindictiveness and misinformation. Weaknesses of the Versailles settlement include the indisputable fact that prior to the June meetings many of the problems which had led up to The World War had already been resolved. The Czarist Empire of Russia had already been transformed, and the Hapsburg Empire too collapsed. The German Empire became the Weimar Republic, a constitutional monarchy through the necessity-activated movements of the Socialists.
Lees states that Paris as a venue for the Peace Conference seemed solely designed to heighten Anti-German sympathies. On May 18 of 1919 though, George, Clemenceau, Wilson and Orlando began to deal the cards with Germany not so much as the stake but rather at the stake. Both Georges had attained their leader-roles halfway through the war, while knowledge of their military efficiency as an area of expertise was public knowledge. Perhaps these were not the ideal chaps to be handling the transmutation of war into peace.
Henig states that Wilson’s lack of communication with the Allies in the German armistice ‘did not augur well with the peace process’. She goes onto represent the poor trait of Wilson’s in his failure to convince his American colleagues that the Versailles programme was worth spending time and resources on. Other-hand, there were probably very few listeners in France at that time. By holding the treaty signings in France, there was a certain element of the settlement’s design that hoped to bring out the guilt of Germany, the birthplace of it’s empire.
Craters, barbed wire, trenches, corpses and grief were stacked high over France’s farmlands and towns. The British and Americans sought lofty, abstract goals such as ‘freedom’, ‘the righting of injustice’ : not as easy to achieve as the purity of aspiration to fulfillment. 2 France’s demands and requirements, at least moved initially in the direction of physical form, territorial invasion, and achievement by means of the blood of a pen. That the Germans later claimed this was a ‘dictated peace’, was a criticism levelled at the attempt to set conditions of life for more than two billion people.
Expectation that plebiscites, the right to national self-determination and access to the means of production would be adequately moderately (or morally for that matter) distributed was a silly notion on a grand scale. That Italy felt cheated, Russia ignored meant a poverty-addled start to world peace. Americans, securers of world peace, choosing to have nothing more to do with the official notification of the notion was looked upon badly by the non-American world, victors and victims.
The New Order may have tried to re-allocate land and property in quantity but a bone of contention is that a qualitative distribution would have suited better. With media pressure representing public calling the Germans in the other room may have made a guess that their future wasn’t as rosy and cosy as Wilson had suggested. As June 24th then June 28th got closer, they had probably been made aware of the British light cruisers and destroyer vessels moving towards their waters in the event of a non-signing. The ships in Hull blocked and the German Hansa towns were being monitored by an R34.
Aware that Britain was on a war footing and had been halting US suplies bound for Danzig. 3 As time has shown, the Versailles treaty was confrontational rather than establishing distance with the war. Germany’s mass loss of territory in Europe combined with their signing to blame has to be balanced against how much they actually were to blame. From this perspective, it appears as if the Austrians took the role of main aggressor, and they had been knocked out of the war by the end of 1914. By Italy, no less with claims, suggestions, requests rebuffed, promises made bounced.
The Treaty of Versailles had one true plan in preserving the peace, to completely eliminate Germany’s territorial, imperial, military and economic power so much that the country would never wage war again” Jeremy Fazli4 According to Joe Hiden, an oversight of the Allies enforcement of war guilt was that they failed to aid Germany in filling the public politic gap. Certainly a lot of the resentment in Germany concerning the happening of Versailles came from a gap between government and public awareness: the continuouis government line altered by the activators of the November uprising had a ‘shock effect’5 on the German public.
Hiden goes on to illuminate that whilst a hefty amount of German territory and wealth was siezed, so too was oversea investment and property in Non-German countries confiscated. This historian certainly suspects that essentially years of positive German history were being rewritten by the entente powers. Although Germany may have been able to meet these debts adequately and remain strong6, resumption of foreign trading was prevented by a five-year ban on protective tariffs. Germany’s exclusion from the League made the ideology of nationalism easier to believe in for those in the Weimar Republic.
As it turnedd out the US came out of the war and treaties the economic victor, a position maintained by the supply of war loans, which kept them healthy until the crash of ’29. Versailles also saw the end of Prussian militarism and in some quarters this is viewed as quite a good thing. “The pernicious effects of the Weimar Treaty lie thus in the way it was created added dimensions to existing internal conflicts and contradictions which had, to some extent, survived the revolution. ” J W Hiden
Of war reparations and the re-structuring of Germany, although harsh, Fritz Fischer suggested the modifications were perhaps not harsh enough. Fischer maintains Germany had been a major power and the Allies were aware that it would be again. 7 The Treaty of Versaillles replaced Germany with much of the same form of 1870, and Jeremy Fazli points out that the French may have wished to punish them for the Franco-Prussian War. While restrictions sought to rest Anglo-|German naval rivalries, peacemakers were concerned Germany be left strong enough to battle the threat of communism.
Henig8 states that the Germans knew this from the conference beginning, they had convinced themselves of it. The assembled delegates notion that a relatively strong Germany would not lash out at those who had broken it’s arms and legs was gravely foolish. True, restrictions on the German military later led to the dreation of the Freikorps and the strengthening of the Reichswehr. The evidence of short-sighted thinking in the contract’s formation is abundant. Land and industry taken away to such an extent, for example in The Saar, meaning the means of financing the repayments to be met were impossible.
Economic absurdity of Weimar’s overprints of banknotes caused massive inflation. Jeremy Fazli, amongst others, notes the unequal distribution of population not just as upset for Germans living in Allenstein and Upper Silesia but also in Tanganyika and Namibibia. Clemenceau’s demands for vengeance pushed aside idealist tones of honourable nature and budgetary concerns to what keynes noted as ‘a disastrous nature of provisions’. That Wilson was ignored, mocked and insulted reinforces the perspectives that Britain and France cared only about punishing.
Lloyd George wore a face of liberalism at paris, yet danced to the tune of Hang the Kaiser back home. With hindsight the events of Versailles did damage to the reputations of the Allied powers. With the British as poor assessors, American isolationist, it’s understanding of the world scene and loyalty to principle called into question. The French, not through choice, became isolationists. The failure of the Versailles treaty set out it’s economic flaws a series of events that had serious ramifications for peace treaties.
This pattern from enforcement to unravelling echoed and spun down the years in The Genoa Cinference, Pre-Dawes Plan, locarno and The Young Plan. As the notable AJP Taylor states, “Briand and Stressemann did not really carry their peoples with them”9 The various conferences (listed above) were evidence enough that the settlement’s terms needed re-addressed. The Treaty of Sevres was similarly badly organised. As they did with the Germans, the Allies under-estimated the Turks, and a revision of the direction was required at Lausanne.
The re-organisation of Austria and Hungary (and to a lesser extent Bulgaria), left them with serious economic problems: a loss of land, peoples and factories. Austria faced something of a crisis and needed League loans, and Hungary lost important agricultural land to Romania. New Danube tariffs upset matters further and made industrial recovery an uphill climbing. It is difficult to focus upon the strengths of the plan: so lopsided is the shape of the Versailles form. Yet on achievement of contrast, the terms of Versailles and their moderation ensured something of a diplomatic defeat for French fury.
The ‘patchwork of minorities’ meant governments, to which they had a measure of self control over ruled Europeans allegiance and it was paid more than voluntarily. For almost twenty years, there was in existence an independent Poland, with free and secure access to the sea. The Slavs were given a solid economic base of industrial and agricultural potential: with treaties in place that optimistically protected them from a German assault. Another of the settlement’s great establishments was the creation of the League of Nations. This is all too often disregarded due to it’s spectacular failures in Manchuria, Ethiopia and Abyssinia.
Yet for ten years, the League helped to attemp to build peace in Europe and as a prototype for the United Nations was almost successful. If not in practice, then at least as note. I disagree with Lowe’s assertion that the League was doomed to failure because it was connected with Versailles. It’s connection with America and America’s subsequent actions were responsible for it’s downfall. Despite ten million deaths and twice as many injured during the war, the financial compensation handed out by germany was something of a consolation.
It allowed some of the peoples of the world to begin rebuilding their homes and workplaces. If comparison matters, The Treaty of Versailles was much more principled than the severity of Brest-Litovsk. Almost a year before the November uprising, russia lost a third of her population and farmlands, and two-thirds of her coalmines and half her heavy industry. An armistice had been easily agreed with the Allies by then. All the powers were intent on negotiating peace terms, which would reflect their short term national interests, and prevent the outbreak of a similar war.
Ruth Henig describes the treaty terms as punitive in tone, flexibly framed and lenient in effect. She also concentrates on the foolish notion of the settlement’s preparation: hammering for three months it sought to reconcile former enemies and lay the foundations for a period of international stability. It was a compromise peace all had misgivings about. Fischer maintains Germany should take most of the blame for issuing a blank cheque to Austria.
This direction was formed from research into The Schlieffen plan and analysis of previously low visibility diaries10 that made mention of a war council. This theory was later dismissed by HW Koch11 claiming nothing came of it. ) Fischer laid down words in favour of the Allies actions at Versailles in concluding German leaders deliberately provoked war. While examining archival sources and historians’ records over the years, I had detected some unusual phenomenona. Although the widely related date for the end of The First World War was 1918 and is indeed, mostly always referred to same in headings, an examination of body text in a number of sources has seemed to indicate that the war ended in 1919.
Ruth Henig in context of the World War writes of, “over four years of intensive fighting not all of which had stopped by 1919” “We taught them a lesson in 1919 and they’ve hardly bothered us since” remarked Tom Lehrer. The Manchester Guardian of May 29 of that year states, “the war formally ended June 30, 1919”. A case of mere formality and informality? Or a case of subjectivity and objectivity? And if it is objectivity, well these proofs and anomaly are a serious warning about what we can learn from history.